Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Royal Bride Who Changed England Forever

From Royal Central:
By the time she reappears, in 1420, she is a beautiful princess of unimpeachable character and for the only time in her life, the centre of attention.  Henry IV’s son, Henry V, had been waging war in France almost from the start of his reign in 1413 but by 1420 he had the upper hand and the Treaty of Troyes, signed that year, cemented his position.  It made him the heir to King Charles VI of France and included a clause for a royal marriage between Henry, the hero king, and pretty Kate, the forgotten princess.  On June 2nd 1420, they married at Troyes Cathedral in France and Queen Catherine was crowned at Westminster Abbey on February 24th 1421 having been carried to her coronation through streets draped in cloth of gold.

These two beautiful people were seen as the start of a new phase in European politics.  Together they would form a dynasty that would rule England and France, uniting old enemies under a common crown.  Henry and Kate were the celebrity couple of their day with chroniclers praising their beauty and the few contemporary portraits of them showing them in the most fashionable clothes around.  The once invisible princess now enjoyed a comfortable life and made well-received public appearances with her husband.  By the time Henry returned to France in late 1421, he and Catherine had sent the whole country into a state of celebration by announcing a royal pregnancy.  Queen Catherine gave birth to a prince called Henry on December 6th 1421. The promise of Troyes had been fulfilled in a baby born to rule England and France.

But Catherine’s luck was about to run out.  In one letter written by her to her husband in 1422, she tells of how she ‘earnestly longed to behold him once more’.  In May of that year, she travelled to France to see him and her father.  But by now, Henry was a shadow of the handsome hero who had left his lovely bride and jubilant subjects the year before.  He was exhausted by his French campaigns, and on August 31st 1422 he died of dysentery at the age of 36.  His widow led his funeral cortege home only to discover, weeks after arriving back in England, that her father had also died.  Her baby son was now King Henry of England and of France.  And suddenly, the young queen went from superstar to shadow once more. (Read more.)

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